I used to read one book at a time, but since having a baby I read snippets of books in different places throughout the house. Love in the Time of Cholera is next to my bed. I’ve read a few pages every night for months now, and I’m almost done. The Anthropology of Childhood is in the bathroom– it’s a fascinating book about how people across the world and throughout time raised and thought of children. For example, as long as there has been humanity, there has been abortion. In the living room, I have Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. In my bag, there is The Pillow Book. Before I start to write, I open it up to a random page.
This week, we asked Entropy contributors to tell us what books they are reading right now. The books below are varied and fascinating, just like our contributors.
I’m re-“reading” Rose, c’est Paris by Bettina Rheims and Serge Bramly. It’s a gigantic black and white photography book that depicts the story of two identical twins, B. and Rose. Rose vanishes or is murdered, and B. sets out to find her. It is difficult to discern, because they are identical twins — played by Inge van Bruystegem — but it seems as if B. is the one with the dangerous, freewheeling life in Paris and Rose was a wife and mother. Rather than getting tangled up into the sordid escapades that resulted in Rose’s death, it seems like attempts to enter Rose’s Paris compel B. back into her own Paris, which is fantastic and dark and where she can play at being a Femme Fantômas, a feeling of power she doesn’t get from trying to figure out what became of Rose, because she can’t. Between the surrealist motifs, ariel shots of scream-inducing glory, and van Bruystegem, who brings something new and intriguing to every photograph, I go back to this book constantly. And there’s a film (it comes with the book)
I’m reading The Sociopath Next Door by the Harvard psychiatrist Martha Stout. I’ve been meaning to read this book for quite a few years, but was a bit nervous because it was marketed with such a pop-psychology vib. It seemed a bit sensationalist, the scary eyeballs and the Halloween colors and all. However, I am extremely impressed with this book and the references in the endnotes. (I’m such a nerd for endnotes, footnotes, and bibliographies. Much of my time reading this book is being spent digging through the endnotes and looking up the studies.) It’s written in a very accessible, at times even beautiful, manner, while backing up everything with research. The thing is, if we want to have a society in which suffering and abuse are minimal, the horrifying and bewildering fact that some people do not have a moral sense, is a subject that we need to understand better. The author/researcher makes her point with academic solidity: that sociopathy (or consciousless-ness, as she defines it) is a real, true state of being. It is a fundamentally different orientation of the brain that approximately four percent of people have, and those people don’t seem at first glance like they have anything wildly wrong with them. This is a massively important subject!
Dennis James Sweeney
I’m reading Or Replica by Paige Taggart, a book of poems from Brooklyn Arts Press. Here’s a poem I just read while I was eating rice:
we the republic of
Tunnel Top bar
push the reefer cloud
out into the street
cars pass with whom
I’m reading The Thing About Great White Sharks by Rebecca Adams Wright. This is Becky’s first book; it just came out a few weeks ago. We met at a summer writing workshop, and her fiction is kick-ass. From the title story: “Sharks are lousy duelists. I learned this in the pool at Kierkegaard, gunning for a hammerhead with a borrowed sea-pistol heavy enough I could hardly hold it straight.” Sharks with guns, with a nod to existentialist philosophy: what’s not to love?
I am re-reading In Watermelon Sugar. Richard Brautigan has a way with words which is very mythic and ethereal, yet also very humble and small. I’m reading it again to remind myself what it is about the written word that I’m in love with, why I find it so intoxicating. In Watermelon Sugar takes you strange, beautiful, magical places which you might not want to return from.
I’ve been working through a big stack of comics lately (Chris Claremont, Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron), but the most outstanding thing I’ve read lately has to be Josh Bayer’s entry of the Rotland Dreadfuls series, Birth of Horror. It’s a bonkers imagining of the Marvel bullpen as Stan Lee transforms into a winged demon and steals ideas from comic creators Bill Everett and Gary Friedrich to create horror comic books that are then delivered to Glenn Danzig of the Misfits. It’s surreal, and funny, and informative of the business side of Silver/Bronze-age comics.
And speaking of the business side of comics, I’ve also been reading Geoff Klock’s critical work The Future of Comics, the Future of Men: Matt Fraction’s Cassanova. It’s a really informative and engaging read with some great ideas about gender and the economics of the comcis industry. Well worth reading even if you haven’t read Cassanova.
Reading A Little Life: A Novel
“The thing he hadn’t realized about success was that success made people boring. Failure also made people boring, but in a different way failing people were constantly striving for one thing — success. But successful people were also only striving to maintain their success. It was the different between running and running in place, and although running was boring no matter what, at least the person running was moving…”
Shane Jesse Christmas
Currently reading Luc Sante’s Low Life
1) Look! Look! Feathers by Mike Young: Someday, some sixteen-year-old will wonder why he’s been assigned this book for class. We now living already know why.
2) Fantasy by Ben Fama: The Mellow Pages cats turned me on to this book last week. I’m so glad they did. This book explores new possibilities of what can be done with post-Internet poetry. Despite what other people think, the movement isn’t waiting on Steve Roggenbuck.
3) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein : This slim book is the no-carb antidote to Kant. Another Mellow Pages rental. I look forward to having my mental paradigm disrupted.
4) Miles by Miles Davis: You will never go back to Kanye after you read this crazed autobiography. There are passages that could have been ripped from the pages of a Biggie Smalls bio.
5) Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish: This cat has written the book that all of us dream of writing. It’s enough to make a regular writer give up–or take up the challenge to die trying.
I am currently reading Kate Braverman’s Small Craft Warnings, her collection of short stories. I had the great honor of reading with Kate and a slew of other talented folks in Santa Fe’s Twisted Tales reading series hosted by Meg Tuite. Prior to that, I’d read Kate’s “accidental memoir” titled Frantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles, and a rare and difficult to find earlier collection of her prose poems, Milk Run. In addition to just the mere fact that she has published in almost every single genre known to (wo)mankind, I so heartlily recommend Kate’s work for her merely unusual prose style, and experimentation. She is uncannily smart, and brave and her work is unique and inspirational. Do look her up! She is a wonderful mentor and a humble person.
I’m digging into Paul Pope’s black and white sci fi comic series THB. He’s put out issues intermittently through a variety of publishers since the mid 90’s, and keeps insisting it will get collected someday, but someday never comes. Naturally the back issues are worth a mint, if you can even find hard copies to begin with. The book follows a teenage girl living on a Mars colony, along with her giant rubber bodyguard THB. It’s got lot of conspiracies and double crosses, weird bugmen and robot assassins and rock music and pseudoscience. It’s sort of Dune meets Moebius(but not in the way that Moebius already drew Dune — like if he drew Dune totally different.). The issues are of varying quality, but it’s to be expected, as they span the entirety of Pope’s career. In theory the series will finally be collected (for real this time) by First Second as soon as Pope wraps up his current project, Battling Boy. But he’s also been redrawing the old issues (way to George Lucas it, Paul), so it’s still kind of cool to go through the originals.
Currently reading Tristano by Nanni Balestrini & The Ice People by Rene Barjavel. Strangely and coincidentally (at least according to Wikipedia), both draw on the Tristan and Isolde story as inspiration. Tristano is a combinatoric novel in which no two copies are the same (the order of the sentences and paragraphs shift in each copy). I have copy #12056, which is really #2056 in English, as the first 10,000 are in other languages. The Ice People is a 1960s sci fi novel from France that I found for a dollar in a used book bin. It has a great cover and involves the discovery of an ancient frozen civilization in the Antarctic.
Feliz Lucia Molina
Transpacific Feminities by Denise Cruz; Leave Your Body Behind by Sandra Doller; Manhattan Luck by Alice Notley
I’ve read very little aside from manuscripts I’m currently editing, but I did recently finish James Salter’s collection Dusk and Other Stories, which I had intended to read for a few years. I’m currently digging into Peter Clines’s 14, which is (from what I’ve read thus far) a sort of mishmash of disquieting horror, strangeness, and best of all, deep-seated tension. I’m crossing my fingers that these things will hold through the remainder. For now, I can only say that the first 30% or so is very good.
Sheldon Lee Compton
I’m getting ready to finish up Gap Creek by Robert Morgan. I’ve resisted reading this book, or any of Morgan’s, for a good while and I’m not sure why except I worried his writing would be nostalgic and counter to what I’m trying to do with my own writing. But it is a finely crafted novel, with the exception of a few nature scenes and one church scene that went much longer than needed. Morgan has earned my respect so I’m glad I’m about to finally finish up one of his books. Just goes to show, when I person sheds assumptions he or she can occasionally find something useful and entertaining.
Robert Walser, Selected Stories (NYRB). Choice quote: “But they all wore fitting clothes and were virtuosos of dissatisfaction.”